Royal Caribbean Continues To Stretch Onboard Boundaries

September 29, 2004
In its effort to remain the definitive "Get Out There" outdoor-activity-oriented cruise line, Royal Caribbean has announced eye-opening plans for its newest old-ship renovation. The 73,817-ton, 1,950-passenger Enchantment of the Seas, originally launched in 1997, will go under the proverbial knife next spring in a major expansion and refurbishment effort.

First: The ship will be stretched, gaining a new 73 foot midsection. This extra space means there's more room for passenger cabins (with balconies, natch). There will be more bars and shops -- Bolero's, the line's increasingly popular Latin-themed lounge, will be introduced, Casino Royale gets a few more slots, and the art auction area will be expanded.

Alas, all that is merely ho-hum stuff found on any newly revamped Royal Caribbean ship, these days anyway. What matters is the cool stuff -- the first-ever features that Enchantment will showcase. In a nutshell:

Fancy a bungee jump? Tucked away on Deck 10's bow will be four bungee trampolines (see photo). Passengers are strapped into a harness connected to two bungee cords so they can, according to Royal Caribbean's press release, "head skyward while keeping them safely centered when they come in for a landing." The release also suggests another benefit: "unparalleled views of the sea, ship and sky."

The ship will gain two suspension bridges on Deck 10 that span more than 75 feet on either side of the pool deck. These bridges will cross over the pool area and will jut out over lower decks so the effect is of hanging over the sea. One side of the overhang will feature a bar while the other will be a stage for bands and such.

Look for a new approach on the ship's sports deck. Beyond the trampolines and the now standard rock climbing wall, the jogging track will be created as a "vitality" course; between stops on the quarter mile track passengers can use various strength-oriented contraptions. There will be two "zones" for basketball -- accommodating three heights of player (youth, teen and adult shooters).

And the (much expanded) pool area's got some nifty tech toys, with an interactive splash deck for kids that consists of 40 water jets connected to a touchpad system that let kids create their own fountain effects (or simply spray each other). At night it becomes a decorate fountain offering fiber optic shows.

The new midsection is already under construction at Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Turku, Finland, but the actual lengthening and refurbishment will occur at the Netherlands-based Keppel Verolme Shipyards next spring. Enchantment of the Seas will re-debut with its inaugural on July 7, 2005 at Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey.

While Royal Caribbean continues to commit to building new ships (it just placed an order for its second Ultra Voyager vessel), the company is also re-creating "older" ships. In fact, Enchantment of the Seas is the fourth to receive a major refurbishment, following Monarch, Empress and Sovereign of the Seas. One major difference: Enchantment is the first ship in 25 years to be stretched by Royal Caribbean.